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Get up to date on Puerto Rico with CRSJ webinar on Tuesday

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The ABA Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice’s Rapid Response Team and its Environmental Justice Committee will host a free webinar on “Hurricane Maria and its Aftermath in Puerto Rico” on Wednesday, October 11, 2017, at 12:30 p.m. ET.

The Department of Defense reports that two weeks after Hurricane Maria made landfall only 5.4 percent of citizens on the island of Puerto Rico have electricity, while 12.1 percent have cell service. Communications still remain a challenge on the island. Currently, only 14 of Puerto Rico’s hospitals had electricity, while 51 were “degraded” and in need of generators for power. The situation remains dire.

The ABA Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice’s Environmental Justice Committee invites you to a webinar addressing the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico as a result of Hurricane Maria and its aftermath.  The panel includes a distinguished group of experts working on the intersections of issues of environmental justice, energy rights, humanitarian relief, and civil rights. The group will discuss the obstacles Puerto Rico faces in the coming days and months ahead to restore electricity, rebuild infrastructure, and meet basic human needs.

Panelists include Bernice Bird, Sheila I Vélez Martínez, and Carlos Pares.

The panel will be moderated by Tiffany Sanchez.

Bernice Bird
Bernice proudly serves as a family and immigration attorney and civil rights advocate for the Central Florida community. Prior to attending law school, Bernice practiced mental health counseling for five upon earning her Master’s in Counseling Psychology summa cum laude from Florida International University in Miami, Florida. Bernice made the transition to law in 2009, and chose to dedicate her passion to helping people by defending their legal rights. In 2012, Bernice graduated cum laude from Barry University School of Law in Orlando, Florida, and was licensed to practice law in Florida in 2013. After graduation, she relocated to Washington, D.C. and pursued a Master’s in Law at American University Washington College of Law, graduating summa cum laude with her LL.M. degree in Law and Government, and a dual specialization in Law, Politics, & Legislation and Gender and the Law.

Among other accomplishments, Bernice assisted the House Judiciary Committee in drafting the Amicus Brief defending the contraception coverage mandate of the Affordable Care Act during her tenure as a Congressional intern at the House of the Representatives. Notably, as of May 4, 2017, the Bird Law Firm has been granted special accreditation status by the United Nations so as to participate in the creation of the United Nations Global Compact for safe, orderly, and regular migration.

Carlos Parés
Carlos Parés is an attorney and a Visiting Professor of Law at Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico School of Law where he taught a course on Principles of Energy Law in Puerto Rico. Carlos has researched energy policy in emerging markets and has advocated for the development of electric solar energy and energy storage policy. He has participated as a speaker in energy law conferences in Puerto Rico and Latin America. Carlos also served as Executive Director of Somos Solar, an NGO in Puerto Rico dedicated to educating consumers about renewable energy emerging markets.

Carlos is admitted to practice before the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. He has served as Legal Adviser for the President of the Puerto Rico Senate, Assistant District Attorney for the Puerto Rico Department of Justice, and Law Clerk for the Puerto Rico Court of Appeals. He holds a J.D. from Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico School of Law and an LL.M. in Energy, Environment, and Natural Resources Law from the University of Houston Law School.

Sheila I Vélez Martínez
Professor Sheila I Vélez Martínez is the Jack and Lovell Olender Professor of Asylum Refugee and Immigration Law at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. She holds a Juris Doctor from the University of Puerto Rico School of Law. She is a member of the Board of Directors of LatCrit (Latino and Latina Critical Legal Studies Inc.) and also of Friends of Farmworkers. Sheila joined Pitt Law as a visiting professor in 2010 and established the Immigration Law Clinic. She currently serves as the Directory of Clinical Programs as well as the Immigration Law Clinic. Her academic publications and academic interests include issues related to immigrant women, Puerto Rican migration, Caribbean Migration, remittances, legal pedagogy and OutCrit theory.

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